I may have gone too far today, in prank world.
It wasn’t the first prank. The second one went off well, too. But the third one. I might have crossed the line on that one.
The first prank was kind of an eye-roller.
I like to make a big deal about the fact that I was Employee of the Month, January 2014. At the time, I ordered a sash. To this day, if I have a comment to make at company meetings, I will sometimes say, “Hi. Edmond Manning. January 2014 employee of the month. I think…” Everyone groans. Everyone knows the EOTM is picked randomly. They get the parking spot in the front of the building. It’s about 30-40 feet from all the other spots in the parking lot, so we all know the parking doesn’t matter that much.
But once a month, the email comes out and introduces a coworker we see every day in the kitchen, and we learn she’s a black belt in karate or that programmer once lived in China for two years. It’s a friendly way to remind us all we work with some cool, impressive people.
Our front receptionist–who selects the EOTM and sends out these lovely emails–agreed to plot with me. Today she announced I was the April 20014 Employee of the Month and even created my lovely interview she does. I emailed my acceptance speech and reminded people I was only available for photos on Thursday afternoon in the break area between 2-4 p.m. I promised change would be coming. A new era of change under my reign. Everyone assumed it was a joke almost immediately. Nobody wants me in that position again.
Not after the last time.
Prank number two was a little more sophisticated. I mean, no genius level stuff. I am a simple man.
A work friend has been pranking me gently for the past month. He told his story on reddit funny and it became a front page story–a big honor. Today Cheeseburger website named him “Coolest April Fools day prank.” The video catching my reaction to finding out lasts about 10 minutes and has been watched 20,000 times. I heard from two friends I hadn’t spoken to in months who reached out to say, “Hey, that’s you in this story, right?”
In the office, we’ve been chuckling over Tom’s insano-flakes patience and art skills, chuckling over my blindness, including not noticing the comic he changed so it screamed EDMOND int huge red letters on the cube wall right behind where I spend 90% of the working day staring at my computer.
Never saw it.
This week, I was the April fool, but in a gentle, friendly way.
I announced via email that we should gather at 3:00 p.m. and celebrate Tom. With a gift.
He IM’d me immediately to say, “What did you do?”
At 3:00, I stood behind Tom with a big knife and said, “It’s time. Come to the pool table.’
He glanced at the knife and walked in front of me.
We all gathered and stared.
I had purchased a grocery store cake and offered it to Tom as ‘thanks’ for all his hilariousness, punking me so damn publicly. Everyone in my studio was in on the prank, waiting for weeks for me to figure this out. In purple frosting, I had the the grocery store baker add these words: There’s Nothing Wrong With This Cake.
He read the cake, noticing my patch-up frosting areas where I tried to make it look someone had fucked with the insides. Maybe inserted something. Then, tried to frost over any evidence of foul-play.
Tom looked at us, all of us, staring at him and said, “No way. No.”
We cajoled him and I offered him the knife.
He held it reluctantly.
Someone said, “Can other non-Tom people have cake?”
“No!” I spoke with vehemence. “This is for Tom.”
Everyone laughed. But waited expectantly.
Through gritted teeth I said, “After all the effort I went through, it would be downright rude not cut the cake and eat a piece.”
“But, I don’t eat–”
“IT WOULD BE RUDE.”
He gingerly cut a piece.
A producer in our studio put her hand on my arm and said, “I need Tom this afternoon. He’s on deadline. He can’t spend time in an ER.”
Tom poked the cake with the knife.
She said, “I’m serious.”
Her seriousness did not reassure Tom.
After a little stalling, Tom eventually cut a piece and raised it to his mouth.
The worried producer gasped out the word, “No!”
Tom bit down as if he might lose his teeth, but then he ate the rest of his small piece, and said, “It’s just cake.”
After that, we all had cake!
The cake had not lied.
It was a pretty gentle prank. Nobody went to the ER.
But could I stop there? No.
The third prank.
I had this idea to do something a little dark.
I think April Fools Day is like Halloween. We celebrate the parts of us that are not so nice. Sometimes it’s funny when a person slips and falls. Saw a guy put Post-It notes all over his girlfriend’s car and she was late to work so had to drive with the entire car covered. She said all the flapping sounded like kazoos. We are compassionate people, most of us, but sometimes we can be a little rude. A little sharp. We need to indulge that desire to laugh at someone else.
We can choose as adults not to indulge the super mean pranks. We can choose to run to someone hurt and say, “Are you okay?” Personally, I cringe at the really mean stuff. We can find gentler pranks and still somehow honor the dark side in all of us.
The other aspect of this holiday is that we all get made fools of by life. We age. We say dumb things. We make mistakes and sometimes they aren’t so funny. We make big plans for our lives and they head a different direction. It’s not easy to laugh everything off, so we need a holiday that reminds us to laugh when reality is not what we thought it would be. April Fools Day helps us laugh at ourselves, our gullibility, our trusting nature, the goofy playfulness of our relationships with each other.
It’s nice to be prank and be pranked. It’s an affectionate punch on the shoulder from someone who thinks buying a $4 greeting card is bullshit.
For the third prank, I decided on three sentences.
I typed them .
Printed out the piece of paper and left it sitting at the printer for someone else to find.
The three sentences were these: “I’ve made up my mind. Let’s go forward with this. Have them both killed.”
Okay, that was a little dark. I know.
When I left the building tonight, our HR person (let’s call her HR) was in her car and rolled down her window. We chatted for a few minutes. She and I chuckled over my temporary Employee of The Month status. Later today, when I was officially ousted, like a cat shooed from the window sil, I warned the new employee of the month that this wasn’t over. I also bragged that I spent the full day parked in her parking spot.
She replied to me privately and said, “I’m gonna need you to go move your car.”
I shared this with HR and we reminisced some good pranks we had both heard. Then, we reminisced about her car deoderizers. Last year, HR pranked all the executives with balloons in their offices, so many they couldn’t get in. She covered someone else’s entire office with Post-It notes. The walls, computer, the desk. One exec was traveling, so she opened up four dozen cheap air fresheners–mostly car wash variety–and sealed his office with a towel under the door so that when he returned from his trip, the air was unbreathable.
After his return, we all paraded by his office to see him working with his eyes watering, and choking as he said, “Yes. Verrrry funny.”
HR is a gentle pranker, The very best kind.
Worried I over did it with my third prank of the day, I said, “What would you say is going too far?”
Immediately, she said, “Sexist. Racist. Mean-spirited. Homophobic. Any phobic, really. Anything mean about a person.”
She added a few others conditions to the list because gentle prankers don’t want to exclude someone or make them feel like crap. We want them in on the joke with us. Come play.
“What about murderous threats type pranks?”
“Ah,” she said. “That would explain the piece of paper that ended up on my desk this afternoon.”
I am so going to be fired from this place.
Happy April, fools everywhere.